Striking Similarities Between George Floyd Protests and Anti-CAA Protests

Although the magnitude of violence in both George Floyd protests and Anti-CAA protests are different; there is a striking similarity in how the government has labeled the demand for Human Rights as ‘Anti-National’ and ‘Domestic Terrorism’.

Citizens across the United States are protesting against the racist and extrajudicial killings of people belonging to the African-American community. The discussion around the extrajudicial killing was reignited on 25th May when a 46-year-old black man, named George Floyd, died in Police Custody in Minnesota. The video footage of the incident, which was broadcasted by the media and went viral on social media platforms, showed an officer kneeling on unarmed Floyd’s neck as he gasped for breath. This led to outrage all over the United States. Jacob Frey, the mayor of Minneapolis condemned the custodial death and has said that,
“I believe what I saw and what I saw is wrong on every level…Being black in America should not be a death sentence.”
Since 25 May, the protests spread like a wildfire in the entire United States. What started with confrontations between protestors and police in Minnesota- where the police used brute force on protesting people as well as journalists- led to nationwide indignation against Police brutality and racism.

Further, protestors started burning police stations and vehicles, as well as, indulging in violence. Rightwing commentators are stressing about the rioting, looting, and vandalism that is happening in the name of protests, and the criticizing left-wing media to subdue the same. It is even said that groups of frat boys have joined the protests, not for George Floyd, but for “having fun” through vandalism.

On Friday President Donald Trump posted a message on Twitter, stating “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Twitter quickly prevented users from viewing the tweet without reading a brief notice that the post glorified violence. It is the first time it had applied such a warning on any public figure’s tweets. The official White House account then reposted Trump’s message. Donald Trump with his personal account and the official White House Twitter account implied that protesters in Minneapolis could be shot.

 

Source: NYT

It would not be wrong to say that as the President of the US, this is a highly embarrassing moment that his tweet was blocked from a social media website. However, the removal of the tweet will actually increase his public support and justification within his supporters. By stating this, Trump has made his intentions extremely clear regarding using force. The unraveling of violence by some sections of the protestors will give him the legitimacy and public backing to use force against all of them.

Does this sound similar to you, in the context of Indian Politics? The similarities between the Floyd Protest and Anti-CAA protests are striking. Both, Floyd Protests and Anti-CAA Protests were led by minority communities that have been treated with suspicion and discrimination in the countries for a long time.

Initially, the Anti-CAA movement received a lot of support from the so-called “non-political” public and students. Protests were held at India Gate, as well as Gateway of India. In fact, even Arnab Goswami ran a show against CAA in Assam. It was after aggressive campaigning by the BJP and the repeated footages that ran on television channels, in regards to Anti-CAA protestors throwing stones on police authorities, in some areas of the country, that it started losing its appeal to people.

The basic reason why protests were happening was drowned down by the noise of how protests were happening.

How protest and the issue of the protest are treated by the media (electronic and more importantly now, social media), have a huge role in the public sentiment built regarding the issue. This process of “mediatization” is such that the value of “issue”- in terms of whether there is a breach of justice or not- is having lower importance now. Here, not only electronic media but social media of both the narratives (pro and anti) is to be blamed. The divide between the narratives has created such polarization where each and every act is either justified or criticized. This is resulting in greater distrust and animosity in people amongst each other.

The increase in mediatization will ultimately reach its penultimate level at a certain point in time, after which people will stop believing in whatever is being shown to them.
Source: Reuters

The protests have been termed by the government and their supporting media as “anti-national” activities, a threat to the integrity of the nation. The difference is, while the US has considerable domination of the Democrats (the opposition) over the Electronic Media as well, in India majorly the Media is dominated by a single party narrative (except for one or two news channels). Therefore, in the US, while protestors are both “A Nation Enraged” (according to NBC) and “Agitators who want to Destroy the US” (according to Fox News), in India, the protestors are only “stone pelters”, “Illegal Bangladeshis” and members of “tukde-tukde gang”.

Another interesting aspect is the difference in how both the protests are treated nationally and internationally. Same incidents, same issues, same protestors. But internationally, they have received greater support and legitimacy than at the national level.

This is again, because of the presentation. International media has less vested interests with national politics-and therefore, is able to present the news more objectively. Who funds international media and who funds the national media? Why will the national media speak against the people who fund it?

Subsequently, the “news consumers” they are catering to, do not involve the majority of the nation’s population. It also includes an international audience. Therefore they are not hesitant in challenging the majoritarian sensibility of the country or, as the rightwingers in both countries will say are conspiring to defame the country through one-sided information”. But the question remains, will this incident lead to ousting of President Trump, as Taylor Swift has predicted? Will anti-CAA protest and NRC will lead to the ousting of the BJP Government? Only time will tell.

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